Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

City hall, briefly

Here’s a look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its March 23 meeting.

Changes made to transit

City of Whitehorse officials announced new rules for transit in light of COVID-19.

As of March 26, a total of 12 passengers in total will be allowed on each bus with social distancing protocols in place. Once capacity is reached, no additional riders will be permitted on board. Normally, capacity would be at about 40 passengers.

“Although ridership has decreased in the past week, the City aims to implement further measures that will protect against the potential transmission of the virus,” officials said in a press release.

“The City is not considering cancelling bus service at this time. Physical distancing measures have already been implemented on all City buses, as well as rear-boarding and increased sanitizing efforts.”

Efforts are underway to explore how to help riders that may not be able to board a bus that has reached capacity, while also encouraging morning commuters to consider alternative transportation where possible or take an earlier bus.

Breathing apparatus purchase pondered

Gullivan International Co. could be awarded a contract worth close to $400,000 to supply the Whitehorse Fire Department with new breathing apparatus.

Fire chief Jason Everitt brought forward the recommendation at Whitehorse city council’s March 23 meeting, noting the department is replacing its current breathing apparatus because the units have been discontinued, making replacement parts hard to find.

“In addition to the product becoming obsolete and nearing the end of its service life, employees have had some near misses due to regulator freeze up in cold temperatures thus creating safety concerns,” he said.

Gullivan submitted the only compliant bid for the 40 new units.

Answering questions posed by council members, Everitt said there will be some orientation training for firefighters to use the new equipment. Council will vote on the contract March 30.

Northwestel could be sole-sourced $612,000 contract

The City of Whitehorse could waive the bidding process and award a $612,000 fixed phone line service contract to Northwestel.

Michael Reyes, the city’s manager of business and technology systems, brought forward the recommendation to council to award a three-year contract to Northwestel and waive the bidding process.

As Reyes explained, the city currently has about 350 fixed phone lines in use, with many being used for security and alarm systems, as well as 10 that are used for fax lines.

Reyes pointed out Northwestel is the only operator approved by the CRTC to provide fixed phone lines in the territory and while the city looked at other options after awarding the current contract to Northwestel, it was learned it would require a capital investment, additional staffing and if there were problems with the internet, the city wouldn’t have access to the phone lines.

“When service reliability improves and overall service costs go down, administration could review and consider internet phone options again,” Reyes stated in his report.

Council will vote on the contract March 30.

City ponders land purchase

A Seventh Avenue property could soon be in the hands of the City of Whitehorse if council approves the $333,000 purchase and the bylaw governing the land transfer.

As Pat Ross, the city’s manager of land and building services, told Whitehorse city council members at their March 23 meeting the property at 7220 Seventh Ave. was among the properties that were to be part of the escarpment land acquisition program in the 1970s.

Under that program, downtown properties near the clay cliffs were sold to the government due to the risk of potential mudslides from the cliffs. Some properties, such as this one, did not get sold.

The property most recently belonged to Alphonse Kowalkowski who passed away in February 2019. Since then, the city has negotiated a sale with the executor of the estate and the land has been assessed at fair market value.

Under city policy, land in the escarpment zone is to be for public use with any buildings on the site to be removed.

While Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu confirmed with Ross that could include looking at the possibility of using the site to expand the Downtown Urban Gardeners site next door if that is in line with the escarpment policy, Coun. Dan Boyd suggested exploring the possibility of realigning roadways in the area.

Council will vote on whether to move forward with the purchase of the property and first reading of the bylaw March 30.

KDFN and City of Whitehorse

The City of Whitehorse and Kwanlin Dün First Nation could be partnering on the work to rebuild much of Tlingit Street in Marwell.

As City of Whitehorse engineering manager Taylor Eshpeter told city council at its March 23 meeting, plans have been in the works since 2019 to rebuild the street. The work is being done using city, federal and territorial funds along with a contribution from the KDFN.

“This is a unique partnership scenario with all four levels of government contributing to a project,” Eshpeter said, noting the project keeps the declaration of commitment the city has with local First Nations to look for partnerships for economic opportunities. Under the agreement, KDFN would supply the majority of the granular material needed for the work. There’s a provision for the city to purchase up to $100,000 of granular material beyond that.

A number of dates are outlined in the agreement for the work, which had Coun. Samson Hartland wondering about the possibility of extending the dates given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eshpeter said that while he hasn’t spoken with representatives from the First Nation yet about that, all indications are that the work would continue. Mayor Dan Curtis also noted that while the world is uncertain times and there could be “a lot of resets,” it’s also important that the city forge ahead with plans where possible. Council members will vote on the agreement March 30.

Incentive proposed for developer

The developer of a 10-unit rental development proposed for downtown is seeking a city incentive.

Brian Gilday is planning to build the 10-unit development at 600 Ray St. and has applied for the city incentive, which was recently updated.

“This policy is meant to encourage smaller, denser housing forms in targeted areas and rental and supportive housing,” planning manager Mélodie Simard told Whitehorse city council at its March 23 meeting.

This particular project would fall under the rental and supportive housing incentive which would see a reduction in development cost charges along with a 10-year economic development incentive to a maximum of $500,000. The grant would be available annually provided property taxes are paid in full.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Whitehorse city council

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